This Sunday’s matchup in Foxboro is one between two teams sitting around .500, but seem to be dealing with the up-and-down start somewhat differently. The Patriots are intent enough on winning that they staged an in-season QB competition, ultimately landing on incumbent starter Mac Jones. Meanwhile, the Colts are seemingly waving the white flag despite being in a much weaker division, as they’ve given the starting job to Sam Ehlinger, who had not thrown an NFL pass until his starting debut on Sunday. Let’s take a look at the odds for this AFC matchup, and make some picks.
Colts Vs. Patriots Betting Odds
The Patriots are favored by 5.5 points at home, just less than a touchdown. The points total is set at a fairly low 39.5, an interesting number to watch with the New England defense being a little overrated.
Colts Vs. Patriots Prediction
The story of the season for the Colts has been their deeply underperforming offense. Coming off of an MVP-type campaign in 2021, running back Jonathan Taylor has spent some time injured, and the rest playing at a much lower level than a year ago. He’s averaging more than a yard less per carry this season, and gaining around 40 fewer scrimmage yards per game. The passing game has also been relatively prolific in terms of yardage, 9th most in the league, but it’s been ineffective in terms of scoring, and PFF’s rating system does not appreciate it either; Colts QBs rank 27th by their measure, and they also assert that the offensive line has been the 5th-worst in the whole NFL. The defense has been solid as expected, but they can only do so much to help win games with an offense that barely scores over 16 points per game.
It’s been a more balanced effort in New England, in what has been a strange season in regards to both the game’s most important position, quarterback, and actual outcomes. The Pats have seemingly oscillated between impressive victories- such as blowouts over the Lions and Browns, or the big road win over the then-5-2 rival Jets- and humiliating defeats, like their utterly uncompetitive opening day effort in Miami, and a jaw-dropping 33-14 home loss at the hands of the Chicago Bears in primetime. Of course, there’s been the unexpected QB controversy as well; after leading the Pats back to the playoffs in year 1, few doubted Mac Jones’s standing as the team’s long-term franchise guy. But after he started the year cold and then got hurt, Bailey Zappe played some great, undefeated football (after coming in for Brian Hoyer, Jones’s initial backup, who then got hurt himself) and raised the question of who should start for New England. Both got time against Chicago; but Zappe played much more, and initially, far better. Jones played all of the game against the Jets this past weekend so the discussion seems to be settled for now, but I’m still keeping a cautious eye on the situation.
I’m going to actually take the over in this one, which may seem surprising to some. But, PFF believes that the Patriots offense (ranked 14th overall) may well be better than traditional metrics like yardage and scoring per game (20th and 17th, respectively) might make them out to be. Indy’s offense might also be due for some positive regression, as they rank 18th in yardage but 30th in scoring; even if many of those yards have come in garbage time, they should start to be accompanied by equally-meaningless points. These would not alter the game, but they can certainly swing a points total. The defenses also might be a bit overrated; PFF sees New England’s as the 22nd best in the league and Indy’s at 11th, even though they are the 12th and 7th best, respectively, in the league by points per game. Similarly, they’re 19th and 9th by yardage allowed, which also suggests some potential overachievement in terms of the scoring numbers. In terms of the spread, it’s a bit simpler; the Patriots are playing at home against a team that has struggled mightily against lesser opponents and has shown no ability to score. I have New England covering the modest spread comfortably.
- The under is undefeated in the Colts’ past 7 road games, but the over has only missed once in the Pats’ last 9 home games
- The Patriots have covered in 4 of their past 5 games, and all of their past 5 in November, dating back to a season ago
Colts Injuries: Kwity Paye (Q), Tony Brown (Q), Matt Ryan (Q)
Patriots Injuries: DeVante Parker (Q), Kyle Dugger (Q), David Andrews (Q), Christian Barmore (Q)
Check out the key matchups and mismatches for Colts Vs. Patriots below.
Colts Rushing Offense vs. Patriots Run Defense
We’ve talked a bit about Taylor’s struggles so far, which have earned him a shocking PFF grade below 60, but the lack of production is not entirely his fault. PFF also grades the Colts’ offensive line extremely poorly in terms of run blocking, 30th in the NFL. Even superstar guard Quenton Nelson has been uncharacteristically terrible, garnering a run blocking grade of just 56.8, essentially unheard of for a player of his stature and talent. Nyheim Hines has been virtually nonexistent, playing just 30% of offensive snaps so far, but trading him away for Zack Moss was still a pretty curious move. Indy will hope that a newcomer in the rotation will help to provide a spark around the rushing game they had hoped would be the heart of a championship offense, but has come out completely flat, as they have averaged under 90 rushing yards per game.
They’ll be facing a New England defense that has been surprisingly susceptible to the run, and could allow them to get back on track to some degree. The Pats rank 22nd both in PFF’s run defense grade, and rushing yardage allowed (126 per game). Anfernee Jennings has been a bright spot coming off the edge, albeit on limited snaps, as he’s missed just one tackle thus far and made 5 run-stops on just 73 such snaps. Veterans Devin McCourty (Safety) and JaW’haun Bentley (Linebacker) have been solid but short of elite in rushing defense, while star d-linemen Matt Judon and Christian Barmore have both been disappointing, although it’s worth noting that Barmore has been in and out of the lineup due to injury, and this may be the case for him on Sunday. Overall, what was supposed to be a relative strength has been one of New England’s bigger liabilities this year. In a matchup between two units that have underperformed, the Pats will try to ensure that theirs is the one that plays closer to expectations this week.
Patriots Rushing Offense vs. Colts Run Defense
The Patriots’ two-headed monster of running backs Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris was expected by most to comprise a major part of their offensive production this season. What might be more surprising is that Stevenson has seemingly taken the RB1, or at least 1a, designation from Harris. Truly, the numbers say he’s earned it; PFF gives him a rushing grade of 83.8 (9th in the NFL) compared to Harris’s 71.6, and the versatile Stevenson’s pass-catching ability makes the gap between their overall offensive grades even wider. He’s also out-rushing Harris by more than 250 yards, albeit in an extra game, but he also does average over a half-yard more per carry. Largely due to these two, New England picks up 123.1 yards per game on the ground, 13th-best in the NFL. The offensive line has been solid so far, ranked 11th by PFF’s run-blocking grade. To nobody’s surprise, PFF states that right guard Mike Onwenu has been the team’s best run blocker, closely followed by center David Andrews and Isaiah Wynn at right tackle. Suffice it to say, the right side of the Pats’ line has done their job in the run game, and they’ll make it a long night for whoever’s lining up against them.
The best run defense for Indy has come from their linebackers; their top-rated run defenders by PFF are Bobby Okereke, who has been very good while playing a huge role, and E.J. Speed, who has missed zero tackles and earned a ridiculous grade of 90.5, although he’s done it in about half as many run defense snaps as Okereke. Kwity Paye and Grover Stewart have also been solid along the defensive line, as they’ve stopped runners at an average depth of 2.3 and 1.9 yards from the line of scrimmage, respectively. Overall, the team has allowed the 17th-most rushing yardage per game; but if we think about game script, we’ll remember that Indy’s offense has not played very complimentary football, and opposing teams have been allowed to spend long swaths of the game running the ball. PFF recognizes this, and considers the Colts to be the 7th-best rushing defense in the league. If the Pats are able to run wild, they’ll assert themselves and turn this one into a laugher. But if Indy’s run defense is able to force them to the air, it could be a very different game.